Wilderness Lodge opened in 1994. It's a remarkable building, reminiscent of the old National Park Lodges built early in the century, such as Yellowstone Lodge (1904) and others in Yosemite and other Western National Parks. As you enter the resort area, the first view of the resort is much like the one above. The timer-framed building is expansive, but looks relatively compact from a distance, with it's multi-gabled roof covered in green "copper" sheathing, fireplace chimneys belching wood-fired smoke, and the national flag flying high over the central mast. The area around the lodge is filled with pine woods and the scent of this place is just like what you'd enjoy in the woods in Northern Michigan or Wisconsin (or California, or Colorado, or Idaho, or Washington, or wherever this lodge is supposed to be).
The Lodge's roof and chimneys viewed from the front outside deck
From closer up, the details add to the atmosphere. Fieldstone walls, "animal tracks" in the concrete walks, and that ever-present pine smell take you away from the hustle and bustle of central Florida and right to Wilderness Lodge's woods and lakeshore.
Entering the resort for the first time is an experience. The ceiling of the main lobby stretches to the top of the five story structure.
The lobby viewed from above
Bundles of huge logs carry the weight of the structure. Rough-hewn timbers and posts line the balconies, and a smooth, polished wooden floor completes the construction.
The lobby's expansive ceiling
Windows on the back wall of the lobby stretch to the sky letting in wonderful natural light to this room during the daytime hours.
The Lodge lobby lit by sunlight streaming from the East-facing windows
At night, huge teepee chandeliers add their luminescence along with the western-style table lamps.
One of the giant teepee chandeliers
Gatherings of couches and chairs around central rugs (and the fireplace in the back, left corner of the lobby) provide places for groups to meet and converse.
The fifth floor sitting area adjacent to the lobby
It's quite loud in here, with the many wooden surfaces kicking the noise about the room, but it's a homey buzz and not at all unpleasant.
The Lodge's check in area
The check-in desk, to the right as you enter the lobby, is guarded by a huge totem of native American carvings. The cast members here, not surprisingly, are dressed in National Park ranger wear...and provide quick, efficient service.
Just beyond the check-in desk is the resort's mercantile. It's a relatively small store, especially since the Villas have just opened up on the complex and the number of guests here will be greatly augmented. The low ceilings make for a claustrophobic feel, but the intimate space does a brisk business peddling Lodge logo resort wear and other vacationer sundries and souvenirs.
But it's outdoors that Wilderness Lodge again captures that Western National Park feeling. Out behind the lobby, the u-shape of the lodge forms a quiet courtyard. It's really quite large, the word "courtyard" makes it sound much less impressive than it really is.
The lovely wooded gardens enclosed by the Lodge's two wings
Winding through the space is a small stream that originates in a bubbling spring inside the lobby.
The spring inside the lobby that feeds Silver Creek
After flowing outside (through an opening in the building wall) the stream, known as Silver Creek, winds its' way through the gardens.
Silver Creek peaks out of the Lodge in the foreground
Silver Creek meanders through the courtyard
Silver Creek eventually becomes Silver Creek Falls, shown in the next picture. The falls form a small pool that flows, over some more rapids and small falls, into a larger pool -- actually the lodge's swimming pool. There are more pictures of the pool on another page of this photo tour.
Silver Creek Falls
One last feature of the Lodge stretches between the pool area and Bay Lake. If you follow a raised boardwalk through the cypress woods...
The boardwalk to the boat dock
You'll come across the boat dock that provides boat service via Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort, and Fort Wilderness Campground.
The boat dock's resident heron (and there's a water turkey with it's wing's outstretched, off to the right -- visible on the water with Discovery Island behind )
The pool is relatively small, but is sufficient since the Lodge has much fewer rooms than most of the other resorts at WDW. The pool area also has a small kiddie pool and both a hot and cold water spa. Just beyond the pool and spas is a geyser that spouts off every few minutes (of course, it courteously avoids making such noises during sleeping hours -- it might keep the guests awake if it did that).
The Lodge's main pool is fed by Silver Creek
From this perspective, you can see the end of the small slide that dumps swimmers into pool from the rock above. As you can see, the pool area is enclosed by the Lodge building itself. Only the end of the courtyard is open to Bay Lake beyond.
The pool's small slide.
The pool is heated, and is open even in the Winter months when the lifeguards would rather be drinking hot chocolate.
Chilled lifeguard (Photo by Sue Holland)
The "Hidden Springs" pool was added to Wilderness Lodge when the Villas building was added. It's a smaller pool, and doesn't have a slide, but it is a nice, quieter pool for folks that just want to cool off in the hot afternoon sun.
Hidden Springs Pool
Hidden Springs pool does have a large number of deck chairs for folks that just want to sun themselves. There is also a small hot tub. But if you want a slide or a children's pool, you have to walk over to the main pool complex next door.
Hidden Springs Pool area with the Villas building in the background
Besides swimming, sunbathing, and hottubbing, There are other activities at the Lodge, too. Buttons and Bells Arcade provides a place for gamers to drop a few coins. The Mickey car ride in the foreground of the picture below is a hit with toddlers, too.
Buttons and Bells Arcade
The rental building, shown in the next picture, is where you can go to rent bikes or watercraft for use on Bay Lake. You can cruise on the lake or over to Seven Seas Lagoon (the body of water that the Magic Kingdom is on), since there is a water bridge, over a vehicle road, that connects the lake and the lagoon that is open to both Disney transportation watercraft and rental boats.
The rental building (Photo by Sue Holland)
Since Wilderness Lodge is themed to be like the National Park Lodges out West, there are several places designed for folks to just sit down, enjoy each other's company, and perhaps read a book. Here are a few of those cozy spots that are scattered around both the Lodge and Villas buildings.
This spot is located on the fifth floor. The railing to the right looks out over the lobby below.
Over in the Villas building, the lobby has groups of chairs where guests can gather.
Sturdy Branches is a state of the art fitness center that was added to the Wilderness Lodge Resort when the Villas building was built.
Sturdy Branches fitness center.
Way across the lobby from the checkin area and Mercantile is the Whispering Canyon Cafe. The Cafe is open to the lobby, so during the evenings when the restaurant crowds are fired up, the noise levels go up with them. This is a VERY entertaining restaurant with good and plentiful food. The family style barbecue meal is served to your table on a central lazy-Susan, so no one has to do much work to get whatever items they'd like to add to their plates. The meal is served with several different sauces which are fun to sample.
The entrance to Whispering Canyon Cafe off the main lobby
During crowded meal times, it's not at all unusual for the kids to be gathered together for a "horse race" (with all of the spectators twirling their napkins in the air to urge on their favorites). The servers here are prone to antics, too.
Whispering Canyon Cafe, during a quieter time of day
Roaring Fork is another eatery here at the Lodge. It's located down a hallway off of the lobby and has a cafeteria style setup. Food here is not spectacular, but the prices are right for a quicker snack or meal.
However, Artist Point is at the other end of the spectrum. Without being at all stuffy or formal, this restaurant serves some of the best meals at Walt Disney World. The game dishes (the buffalo steak is fantastic, and much more tender than you might think -- and the Salmon grilled on an oak plank is great, too) are top-notch, as is the overall ambience of the restaurant.
Wilderness Lodge has three types of rooms. The standard rooms have a couple of queen beds, a television, and a very nice bathroom. Some of the standard rooms come equipped with bunk beds (not shown), which is a very fun twist for the kids.
A standard Wilderness Lodge room (sorry it's so dark, folks)
The standard room's TV armoire
The standard room's bathroom (the sinks outside of the toilet/bath room are nice)
The Lodge also has a special type of suite called a "junior suite." These junior suites have a nice sitting room with television, a wet bar, bathroom and a separate bedroom.
The junior suite's sitting room
The sitting room from the other angle
The junior suite's wet bar
The junior suite's bathroom
The junior suite's bedroom
The view from the junior suite's bedroom toward the sitting room
The Villas building (red roof) is located directly adjacent to the main Lodge Building.
Right next to the Lodge, in a building that pre-dates the lodge according to Disney's storytellers, are the Villas at Wilderness Lodge. The villas share all of the resort facilities of the Lodge including restaurants. When the villas were built, though, another pool was added as was a small game room (called the Iron Spike Room) and a fitness center (Sturdy Branches).
Another view of the Villas building from the front elevation.
The rear of the Villas building includes the exterior entrance to Sturdy Branches.
Many of the Villas rooms look out into the scrub woods that surround the Lodge.
The Villas lobby serves only as an entrance to the building since check-in is handled at the main Lodge lobby next door. Obviously, the building certainly lacks the majesty and grandeur of the Lodge -- but it faithfully captures the feeling of a rustic railroad workers lodge, just like it's supposed to do.
Looking up at the ceiling (or some reason I always do that in Disney buildings) you can see the same attention to detail here that everyone enjoys in the Lodge. It's just done on a smaller scale and with a slightly different theme to set this building off from the other. Instead of huge teepee lights, this building "makes do" with a simpler cast iron one. Instead of huge pillars of logs to hold up the edifice, this building gets the job done with single columns and simple trusses.
Looking up in the Villas lobby.
A snake, carved into the woodwork, is one example of the great attention to detail that went into this building... (Photo by Pat Edaburn)
...and the etchings on the elevator door is another (Photo by Pat Edaburn).
This is a beautiful addition to Wilderness Lodge. It adds a bunch of rooms to the resort, but also provides some additional amenities. I'm sure that guests that stay here in the coming years will thoroughly enjoy the great outdoors.
Looking down in the lobby from the fourth floor.
The Iron Spike Room, just off the lobby in the Villas building, so called because the decor celebrates the history of the railroad, has some railroad memorabilia on display. In fact, buffs of the history of Disney railroads will get a kick out of seeing the photographs of the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a scale model steam railroad that Walt Disney had running around the yard of his home in the Holmby Hills in California and one of the cars that actually ran on the Carolwood Pacific.
Railroad memorabilia in the Iron Spike Room.
Seating area in the Iron Spike Room.
The Iron Spike Room's fireplace.
Adding a number of additional Disney Vacation Club rooms to the DVC lineup at Walt Disney World was the main reason why the Villas was built. Without embellishment, here are some pictures of the studios and one- and two-bedroom villas that are available at this resort:
Queen bed in the studio.
The studio's sofa bed.
Kitchenette provided in the studios.
The kitchen in the one- and two-bedroom villas.
Laundry can be done in the one- and two-bedroom villas.
The master bedroom.
Just for reference, remember that a two-bedroom villa is simply a one-bedroom villa (with master bedroom, kitchen and living room, and laundry) attached to a studio.
The master bath.
The master bath, looking into the master bedroom.